Indo-Pak joint statement issued at Havana after a meeting between Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President Musharraf on the sidelines of NAM summit has sent a woefully wrong message to our adversaries that battle fatigue has set in and that India has lost the will to carry on the war against cross-border terrorism. Maybe the political bosses and the bureaucracy in the foreign office have lost their steam. But this can'tbe said about the Indian society, the strategic community and the security forces.
Whatever the failures of the powers that be, the nation is in no mood to tolerate the defeatist mentality exhibited by the Prime Minister and his team. There is no reason why we should concede that a terrorism-generating state is our partner in combating terrorism. In case the Prime Minister'smemory is so short that he has forgotten what he said in the wake of serial bomb blasts in Mumbai trains, let me remind him that he said, ?We are certain that the terror modules responsible for the Mumbai blasts are instigated, inspired and supported by the elements across the border.? On the contrary, the Havana statement that Dr Singh signed says, ?The fact is that terror is a threat to Pakistan as it has been a threat to India. We need to have a collective mechanism to deal with it.? How to explain this contradiction? What happened between then and now?or at Havana, for that matter?that persuaded the Prime Minister to dramatically change his perception of Pakistan? The nation has a right to know what were his compulsions. Did he do what he was asked to do by the invisible hand from across the seven seas? Or is it a continuation of the Congress party'sfaulty policy of giving concessions to Pakistan in the hope of getting Muslim votes in elections?
The joint statement marks a major shift in New Delhi'sapproach to tackle terrorist menace. Pakistan has inflicted a thousand cuts to bleed India and the Prime Minister seems to have decided to go an extra mile to reduce, if not eliminate, future terrorist attacks. An indication about his desperation is available in the Prime Minister'sresponse to questions from mediapersons accompanying him on his foreign trip. Defending the setting-up of a joint mechanism to tackle terrorism, Dr Singh is reported to have said, ?We need to toss all the balls to save lives.? Asked about the prospects of the success of the joint mechanism, Dr Singh response was a laconic, ?Let us give it a try.? Are these the responses of a leader who has made a strategic move to achieve a well-defined objective? At best, it is a shot in the dark, and at worst, a document signed by the head of the government under duress or to appease certain sections of population in the country. President Musharraf'strack record doesn'tinspire confidence nor does it give us any hope that he would honour his pledges?past or present. He is the man who said Pakistan had no trust in India and made a more damaging observation at Kathmandu in 2002 in which he maintained that resolution of Kashmir issue was linked with terrorism and couldn'tbe separated. Wasn'tit a warning that he would continue to promote terrorism if J&K issue was not resolved to Islamabad'ssatisfaction? New Delhi can forget at its own peril the stark reality that it was General Musharraf who masterminded Kargil even as the then Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee took a bus to Pakistan to offer a hand of friendship to Islamabad.
President Musharraf must be a happy man. He has extracted a ?clean chit? from our Prime Minister that he had done nothing to deserve. As of now, the General is under tremendous pressure from within the country. Balochistan is burning after Pakistani army killed Nawab Bugti and there is violence in Sindh in support of the demand for freedom to get rid of Punjabi domination in all walks of life in Pakistan. Tribal belt in the North-West is another headache for Islamabad. The General has won the battle by getting the Prime Minister'ssignature on a document that committed India to accept the Pakistani claims that its military intelligence agency?ISI (notorious for aiding and abetting cross-border terrorism)?functions autonomously and that there were ?freelance? terrorists that operate from Pakistani soil independent of the Government of Pakistan. President Musharraf might have given oral promises about his cooperation in fighting terrorists. What is the worth of these oral assurances? We know the fate of such assurances given in the past, including the ones given by Bhutto to Indira Gandhi. It is hard to believe that the dictator will change his basic approach towards India. The real test of his sincerity will be his willingness to hand over wanted terrorists like Dawood Ibrahim and Azhar Masood who are known to have taken shelter in Pakistan with the help of ISI and dismantle terrorist camps in territories under its control.
New Delhi has suffered a strategic setback in its fight against cross-border terrorism by conceding that Pakistan is not an aggressor but a country that too is at the receiving end of terrorism. India has made a paradigm change in its perception of Pakistan'srelation with terrorism. For a quarter of a century we have been blaming Islamabad for promoting and exporting terrorism?first in Punjab, then in J&K and now all over India?that claimed more than 60,000 innocent lives. By declaring Pakistan a counter-terrorism partner state, New Delhi has taken a U-turn despite the fact that Pak-trained and inspired Islamic terrorists killed more than 400 persons during the past one year?the highest casualties in a single year outside the terrorist-hit states. Pakistan may as a strategy to win laurels from the international community decrease infiltration into J&K and ask ISI modules to remain dormant for some time. But what is the guarantee that Pakistani agencies will not use this lull in terrorism to set up sleeping modules all over the country? Congress Chief Minister of J&K Ghulam Nabi Azad is perhaps more realistic than the UPA government and the Prime Minister. Mark his words, ?There are three agencies in Pakistan that support and sponsor militants?militants that support and finance militants in India, ISI and the Army that abet, arm and support militants. I don'tthink this could be possible without the knowledge of Musharraf Saheb.? Is the Prime Minister listening?